Can you patent nature? Specifically, DNA? That’s at the bottom of the latest round of the big government vs. big Pharma battle.
Government lawyers argue “No”. They say you cannot, for instance, patent a tree. (Yet, the US patent office awards plant patents.)
Myriad Genetics, Inc., has had a patent on a cloned BRCA gene — a potential precursor to breast cancer – for over 10 years. (Test for the gene, and you can get a jump start on treatment.) Myriad answers that while you might not be able to patent a tree, you can patent, say, a unique baseball bat that humans fashioned from that tree.
The isolation and use of DNA is accelerating the development of “personalized medicine” that’s bringing us safer, more effective drugs. Throwing out R&D companies’ ability to do so would have a huge negative impact on the worlds of science, medicine, business and law.
I have patented numerous DNA molecules. I have studied the science — and based on the specific science used here, the government lawyers are wrong! Here’s why:
They claim that pretty much anyone could used a microscope and look into a cell to see DNA. In fact, you could not see DNA through a microscope because it is wrapped around in proteins and other natural products that protect it from early decay. ONLY in the laboratory — after complex multi-step processing — can you isolate the DNA that’s claimed in patents.
Question: Has Myriad indeed found the best way to get the BRCA test to women? As a descendant of women who died of ovarian and breast cancers, I take a special interest in this debate.
(The main plaintiff is a part-time nanny, who like many cannot easily lay her hands on enough funds to pay for the test.)